CASA of the Ninth serves the counties of the Ninth Judicial District—Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco. These three counties encompass 7, 152 square miles of the Western Slope of Colorado. We serve children who are involved in Dependency & Neglect (D&N) cases by training volunteers to advocate for their needs and best interests for permanency in court. The training consists of 30 hours of online and in-person education related to the court system, child welfare and diversity. The CASA training is developed by the National CASA organization.
CASA works in partnership with the Ninth Judicial District Courts, County Departments of Human Services, Guardians at litem and Parent Response Counsels. Currently, the number of D & N cases in the Ninth Judicial District average around 30 cases per year. Each of those cases represents an average of 2-3 children and involve children from birth to age 21. Our goal is to serve all of the D & N cases in our District by 2016.
D&N Petitions are filed as a last resort by counties in order to remove children from their primary caregivers when those caregivers have been found to have abused and/or neglected their children. These are families who are in dire need of services and children are often placed in foster care or in the care of other family members while parents address their treatment needs.
Dependency and Neglect cases can be very complicated and the very first CASA program was started by Judge David Soukup in Seattle in 1977 because he did not “feel that he was getting all the facts needed to make well-informed decisions affecting the future of the children whose cases came before him”.
The role of the CASA Volunteer is to investigate, facilitate, monitor and advocate by getting to know the child, their caregivers, parents, family members, foster parents, teachers, health care providers and others involved in the child’s life. The volunteer then acts as the “eyes and ears” of the court, by completing their own impartial court report and making recommendations for the judge to consider.
Each CASA volunteer is assigned to only one family of children and seeks to represent the needs of the children as a citizen—not as a caseworker or attorney.
The benefits to children who are assigned a CASA volunteer include:
1. Spending less time in foster care or other out of home placements—an average of 8 months less!
2. They are more likely to be adopted
3. More services are ordered for children assigned a CASA
4. They do better in school.
5. They score better on nine protective factors ranging from valuing achievement to a sense of acceptance.
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